It’s Thursday! Did You Know…
* 1918 – Borden government passes Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women – women over 21 to vote federally.
In 1867, the definition of the franchise was left to the provinces. This meant that eligibility to vote in a federal election could vary from one province to the other. All provinces, however, restricted the franchise to male British subjects who were at least 21 years old who had a property qualification. For the first 50 years after Confederation, the Liberal and Conservative parties manipulated the federal franchise in a blatantly partisan fashion. At various times up to 1920, the federal franchise was based either on the electoral lists drawn up by the provinces for provincial elections or on a federal list compiled by enumerators appointed by the governing party in Ottawa. Because until 1885 the vote was based on provincial law, elections were staggered, meaning they could be held on different days in different places. Voters in one constituency might already know which party was likely to form government. Given the importance of patronage in this era of Canadian politics, this created a powerful incentive to vote for the governing party.
Canada’s most controversial franchise legislation was adopted by Parliament during the First World War. The Wartime Elections Act and the Military Voters Act of 1917 enfranchised female relatives of men serving with the Canadian or British armed forces as well as all servicemen (including those under 21 and status Indians); it disenfranchised conscientious objectors and British subjects naturalized after 1902 who were born in an enemy country or who habitually spoke an enemy language. Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative government openly admitted that the legislation was biased in its favor. The 1917 election results proved that they were right. Such abuses and shifts in the policies governing the right to vote ended in 1920 with the adoption of the Dominion Elections Act, which established a standard Dominion-wide franchise.
Although occasional instances were recorded of women voting in pre-Confederation Canada until 1849, Canadian women were systematically and universally disenfranchised. Apart from the temporary and selective enfranchisement of women under the Wartime Elections Act, women were first granted the right to vote federally in 1918.
In 1916, Manitoba became the first province to enfranchize women for provincial elections; in 1940, Québec was the last province to do so. In 1951, the Northwest Territories became the last territory to grant women the vote.
* 1964 Riot erupts at soccer match
A referee’s call in a soccer match between Peru and Argentina sparks a riot on this day in 1964. More than 300 fans were killed and another 500 people were injured in the violent melee that followed at National Stadium in Lima, Peru.
The match was a qualifier for the 1964 Olympics and the Peruvian fans were fiercely cheering on their team with only a few minutes left in a close game. When the referee disallowed an apparent goal for Peru, the stadium went wild. The resulting panic and crowd-control measures taken caused stampedes in which people were crushed and killed.
The extent of this disaster has only been surpassed once. In 1982, 340 people died at a match in Moscow when a late goal caused fans who had exited the game to attempt to return suddenly. Meanwhile, police were forcing people to exit; those caught in the middle were crushed.
Large-scale soccer disasters date back to 1946 when 33 fans were crushed to death in Bolton, England when overcrowded conditions caused a barrier to collapse onto fans.
* 1543 Copernicus dies
On May 24, 1543, Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies in what is now Frombork, Poland. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.
Prior to the publication of his major astronomical work, “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs,” in 1543, European astronomers argued that Earth lay at the center of the universe, the view also held by most ancient philosophers and biblical writers. In addition to correctly postulating the order of the known planets, including Earth, from the sun, and estimating their orbital periods relatively accurately, Copernicus argued that Earth turned daily on its axis and that gradual shifts of this axis accounted for the changing seasons.
He died the year his major work was published, saving him from the outrage of some religious leaders who later condemned his heliocentric view of the universe as heresy. By the late 18th century, the Copernican view of the solar system was almost universally accepted.
* 1974 Duke Ellington dies
The highest compliment Edward Kennedy Ellington knew how to pay to a fellow musician was to refer to him as being “beyond category.” If any label could possibly capture the essence of Ellington himself, it would be that one. In a career spanning five decades, the man they called “Duke” put an indelible stamp on 20th-century American music as an instrumentalist, as a composer, and as an orchestra leader. Equally at home and equally revered in the Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall, if any musician ever defied categorization, it was Duke Ellington. Fifty years after becoming a household name, and without slowing down professionally until the very end, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington died on May 24, 1974, at the age of 75.
One of the keys to understanding Duke Ellington’s persona is to know how and when he received his noble nickname. Unlike Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, who were called the King and Queen of their respective genres because of their professional accomplishments, Edward Ellington became the Duke because of his suave demeanor and elegant bearing while still a schoolboy in Washington, D.C. As Studs Terkel put it, “His casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman.” The same qualities would remain with Ellington throughout his adult life.
Even if Ellington had limited himself to being a composer, he would deserve a reputation as one of the 20th century’s best purely on the strength of “Mood Indigo” (1930), “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1932), “Sophisticated Lady” (1933) and “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” (1940). But Ellington was much more than a composer. His Duke Ellington Orchestra served as an incubator for some of the greatest instrumentalists of the jazz age and became famous for a sound that no other orchestra could mimic. As the conductor/composer Andre Previn once said in comparing Ellington to another jazz orchestra leader of far more modest talent: “Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, ‘Oh, yes, that’s done like this.’ But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound and I don’t know what it is.”
The style of music that brought him to fame passed in and out of fashion over the decades following his commercial peak, but Ellington himself was never content to work within that style anyway. Over the course of his career, Ellington never stopped pushing himself into new territory, from long-form orchestral jazz compositions to sacred church music. “Every morning you wake up, it’s a new day, isn’t it?” he once said. “Is there any reason why a human being shouldn’t be influenced by a new day?” Jazz historian Ralph Gleason called him “The greatest composer American society has produced.” Duke Ellington himself would likely have been satisfied with simply “beyond category.”
* 1941 The Bismarck sinks the Hood
On this day in 1941, Germany’s largest battleship, the Bismarck, sinks the pride of the British fleet, HMS Hood.
The Bismarck was the most modern of Germany’s battleships, a prize coveted by other nation’s navies, even while still in the blueprint stage (Hitler handed over a copy of its blueprints to Joseph Stalin as a concession during the days of the Hitler-Stalin neutrality pact). The HMS Hood, originally launched in 1918, was Britain’s largest battlecruiser (41,200 tons)-but also capable of achieving the relatively fast speed of 31 knots. The two met in the North Atlantic, northeast of Iceland, where two British cruisers had tracked down the Bismarck. Commanded by Admiral Gunther Lutjens, commander in chief of the German Fleet, the Bismarck sunk the Hood, resulting in the death of 1,500 of its crew; only three Brits survived.
During the engagement, the Bismarck‘s fuel tank was damaged. Lutjens tried to make for the French coast but was sighted again only three days later. Torpedoed to the point of incapacity, the Bismarck was finally sunk by a ring of British warships. Admiral Lutjens was one of the 2,300 German casualties.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/franchise/
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/